|Joint Team Works to Prevent Fratricide|
Joint Team Works to Prevent Fratricide
By Tech. Sgt. Eric M. Grill, Air Force Print News.
Eglin Air Force Base, Florida – (AFPN) March 13, 2002 -- As the United States and its allies fight the global war on terrorism, Department of Defense officials are evaluating combat scenarios that are designed to test how the U.S. military identifies both friendly and enemy targets.
The Joint Combat Identification Evaluation Team here is trying to prevent friendly fire incidents, known as fratricide, which occur during battles or in the "fog of war."
The fog of war refers to a situation during a battle, whether in the air or on the ground, where a person may get confused because of bullets whizzing by, mortars going off, or because they do not have enough information to make the right decision. The result is a loss of situational awareness, and when this happens, officials said mistakes like fratricide happen.
An example of this is an April 1994 incident where Air Force F-15 Eagles shot down two friendly Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters when the UH-60s were operating in the northern no-fly zone in Iraq. Twenty-six people died in the friendly fire incident. The UH-60s were misidentified as enemy helicopters, both through electronic means, as well as visually.
Officials blamed the incident on a culmination of several events.
"The Black Hawk helicopters were downed as a result of a tragic series of errors and unfortunate events involving numerous people," said Sheila Widnall, who was the secretary of the Air Force at that time.
"It was determined that a number of Air Force officers, from the general officer level on down, failed to carry out their duties responsibly," she said.
Because of incidents like this, JCIET exists today, said Gary Russell, a systems analyst with the team.
"The organization traces its roots back to 1990 when it was chartered as a (Secretary of Defense) sponsored Joint Test and Evaluation to study various combat identification tactics, techniques, and procedures and determine if new technologies or procedures could increase the effectiveness of air defense operations while simultaneously reducing the risk of fratricide," Russell said.
JCIET officials will conduct evaluations, which involve all of the U.S. military services as well as participants from allied nations in a combat scenario. The primary emphasis is on tactical level of execution and how different services accomplish target identification and integrates with each other within a joint battlespace, officials said.
The annual two-week field evaluations are designed to provide a realistic scenario and create a fog-of-war feeling, where airmen, soldiers, Marines and sailors perform tactical missions using their normal equipment and tactics, officials said.
During these missions, JCIET officials will collect all data available to the participating forces -- including radio transmissions, targeting information and the positions and movements of the participants -- to evaluate the interoperability of the services as well as the joint integration of the different services’ systems, concepts and capabilities, officials said.
All participants and vehicles involved in evaluation have instruments to provide accurate time, space, position, information or TSPI -- known as "truth data," Russell said.
Using sensors, data-links and an archiving system, Russell said, "We have a God's-eye view of the whole battlespace. We know where every tank, aircraft and ship is at every moment during the battle. Additionally, we have a multitude of sensors inside of every combat and support vehicle that allows us to determine what is being targeted."
Officials take this data and review it with all the exercise participants at the end of each day. Participants in the combat identification exercise give their views on the day’s events based on the information they had to fight the battle, and where they thought things went right and wrong.
JCIET officials then take the tactical information used to fight the battle and overlays the truth data on top of it. The result is a display showing what actually happened in the big picture of things, Russell said.
For one planner, the truth data allows evaluators to see what really happens during an intense combat mission.
"We're able to show by instant replay what the participant perceives happened," said Maj. Don Perry, who is the JCIET airspace manager, "then we show them what really happened."
"This type of analysis assesses the overall combat identification and interoperability capabilities of currently fielded systems; the tactics, techniques and procedures used to identify friendly and enemy forces; and the combat doctrine used in a joint tactical environment," Russell said.
The difficulty of the evaluation is an equivalent to a graduate-level college course, said Perry, who is responsible for more than 4,500 square miles of airspace during the evaluation. It encompasses the southern part of the United States from Gulfport, Miss., to Panama City, Fla., and the Gulf of Mexico up to Memphis, Tenn.
"The evaluation brings everyone together in a no-bull, real-time combat scenario," Perry said. "Its purpose is to have participants detect, identify and shoot enemy forces, but in the fog of war, it doesn't necessarily happen in that order. It's a very fast-moving exercise."
For Lt. Col. Steve Baldock, an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot who is the air component commander for the opposing forces during the evaluation, having an evaluation team like this is important.
"As a pilot, I want to make sure that I identify the correct target," he said. "I'm glad that we have an organization that evaluates how each branch of service does combat identification."
A byproduct of these evaluations, Russell said, is that participants learn from their mistakes here, in an exercise environment, where no one gets hurt.
Ideally, he said, this exposure and the lessons learned here will prevent a fratricide event from happening in future real-world combat environments, like those encountered in our current global war on terrorism.